Environmental Health

The North Central District Health Department’s (NCDHD) Environmental Health Program tracks West Nile Virus in our 9 county area, provides radon testing kits when available, and has information and guidance on rabies and mold.

West Nile Virus

NCDHD’s Environmental Health program tracks dead birds and helps with testing mosquitoes to monitor West Nile Virus in our 9 county district. Mosquito pools are tested in O’Neill and Valentine area.

West mosquitoNile Virus is contracted through mosquitoes that have been bitten by an infected bird. Generally birds cannot pass the virus to humans.  West Nile Virus symptoms are flu-like and can include a slight fever or headache. Severe symptoms are not likely, but can lead to encephalitis, which can cause inflammation of the brain, disorientation, convulsions and paralysis. People over 50, infants, and pregnant women are especially susceptible to this disease.

NCDHD recommends the following precautions to protect yourself and others from West Nile Virus:

  • Applying an EPA approved mosquito repellant (DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535). (Environmental Protection Agency: Insect Repellents)
  • Limiting exposure when outdoors by wearing long sleeve shirts and pants.
  • Limiting time spent outdoors when Culex mosquitoes are most active, typically dusk to midnight.
  • Getting rid of standing water where mosquitoes may breed.
Local Contact Information for handling and submitting birds:

NCDHD collects sick or dead birds that are not damaged or decayed for West Nile Virus testing. If you find a sick or dead bird, DO NOT touch the bird.  Use gloves or an inverted bag to safely dispose of or transport it.

To report sick or dead birds, please call NCDHD at 402-336-2406 or toll-free at 1-877-336-2406 and ask for Heidi. NCDHD can make arrangements to pick up the bird if in the O’Neill area.  If you are outside of O’Neill, the bird can be taken to your local veterinarian for testing.

For more information about West Nile Virus, visit the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services West Nile Virus page or the Center for Disease Control (CDC) West Nile Virus page.


Bats, Foxes, Raccoons, and other animals can carry rabies!

Rabies is caused by a virus that affects the nervous system and is transmitted by the bite of an infected animal or if saliva from a rabid animal gets directly into an open wound or a person’s eyes, nose, or mouth. Rabies is generally fatal without preventive treatment.

rabid dogBe careful around bats and other wild animals like skunks, foxes, coyotes and raccoons or domestic stray animals like cats and dogs which are less likely to be vaccinated. These animals could potentially have rabies and transmit it to people.

The North Central District Health Department provides consultation to healthcare providers, veterinarians, and the general public to help determine if a potential exposure occurred.  For a consultation, contact NCDHD’s Disease Surveillance Coordinator at 402-336-2406 or toll-free at 877-336-2406.

For more information about rabies, visit Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services rabies page or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rabies page.


Did You Know…

  • Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking?
  • Approximately 20,000 cancer deaths each year are caused by radon?

Radon is an invisible, odorless, and tasteless radioactive gas that comes from the decay of radium in the soil. Since radon is a gas, it can move through the soil and enter the air in your home. When you breathe air containing radon, the sensitive cells in your aradonbanner1irway are irritated, increasing your risk of developing lung cancer. The only way to detect the presence of radon is to test for it. The best time to test for radon is during the winter months. The winter months, when windows and doors are usually kept shut due to cold weather, allow the radon levels to increase inside of homes.

Nebraska has a very high incidence of radon in homes; over half of radon test in the state are above the action level of 4.0 pCi/L. The EPA recommends that homes with radon levels of 4.0 pCi/L or more of radon should be fixed to prevent accumulation of radon gas indoors.

NCDHD offers free or low cost radon short-term test kits to residents of our 9 county district during the winter months, if grant funds are available. As of 1/15/18 we have radon tests available. Call NCDHD at 402-336-2406 or e-mail Heidi at heidi@ncdhd.ne.gov. Test kits can also be purchased at your local hardware stores or by calling one of the following suppliers:

AccuStar Labs
To order a discounted long-term test kit from AccuStar, call 800-523-4964 and mention NEBRASKA.

Air Check, Inc.
To order a discounted short-term or long-term test kit from Air Check, call 1-800-AIR-CHEK.

Alpha Energy Laboratories
To order a discounted short-term or long-term test kit from Alpha Energy, call 1-800-324-5928.

A list of contractors licensed to mitigate your home of radon is available.Licensed Mitigation Businesses

For more information, check out this Radon Fact Sheet and visit the Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services radon page.


Molds reproduce by means of tiny spores.  Mold spores float thromoldugh the indoor and outdoor air continually. When mold spores land on a damp spot indoors, they may begin growing and digesting the surface they land on in order to survive. There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, and foods. When excessive moisture or water accumulates indoors, mold growth will often occur, particularly if the moisture problem remains undiscovered or unaddressed.

Ten Things You Should Know About Mold

1. Potential health effects and symptoms associated with mold exposure include allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory complaints.

2. There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture.

3. If mold is a problem in your home or school, you must clean up the mold and eliminate the sources of moisture.

4. Fix the source of the water problem or leak to prevent mold growth.

5. Reduce indoor humidity (to 30-60%) to decrease mold growth by: venting bathrooms, dryers, and other moisture-generating sources to the outside; using air conditioners and de-humidifiers; increasing ventilation; and using exhaust fans whenever cooking, dishwashing, and cleaning.

6. Clean and dry and damp or wet building materials and furnishings within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth.
7. Clean mold off hard surfaces with water and detergent, and dry completely. Absorbent materials such as ceiling tiles that are moldy may need to be replaced.

8. Prevent condensation: reduce the potential for condensation on cold surfaces (i.e. windows, piping, exterior walls, roof, or floors) by adding insulation.

9. In areas where there is a potential moisture problem, do not install carpeting (i.e. by drinking fountains, by sinks, or on concrete floors with leaks or frequent condensation).

10. Molds can be found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any substance providing moisture is present. There are molds than can grow on wood, paper, carpet, and foods.

For more information about mold, visit the following sites:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Page last updated 04/11/2017

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